Current Event February 27, 2015
When Voltaire wrote Treatise on Tolerance in 1763, it was an important and relevant work. The work’s message of religious tolerance is experiencing a resurgence over 250 years later in modern day France. After attacks by religious extremists on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, people in France who are looking for answers and a denunciation of violence in the name of religion are finding it in Voltaire. Listen to learn what inspired this 18th century book and why people are turning to it today.
Franz Kafka worked at an insurance company and wrote in his spare time. He asked that all his personal papers, including literary manuscripts be burned when he died. After Kafka’s death, his friend and literary executor Max Brod ignored Kafka’s wishes and published many of his manuscripts. "The Trial," a novel about law, justice and the arrest and prosecution of a man for an unknown crime, was one of these manuscripts. Other people face similar decisions around respecting the wishes of an artist or writer by destroying their work. Listen to a conversation with an ethicist as he discusses the implications of this debate through a modern day example.
The Vietnam War has a controversial legacy in United States history and culture. The U. S. was immersed in the conflict in Vietnam for 20 years. The draft of young men to fight far from home in the seemingly endless war led to widespread resistance and protest against the war itself. This discontent led to a disrespect of veterans when they returned. Since then the sacrifice of soldiers has been honored in memorials, movies and books. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built in 1982 in Washington DC. But it was controversial at the start because it honored soldiers by etching the names of the more than 58,000 soldiers killed in polished black granite. Listen to this radio story to learn the history behind this war memorial.
Author Natalie Babbitt has been writing books for young people for four decades. Her respect for young readers shines through in the themes of her novels, from love and everlasting life in “Tuck Everlasting” to money and dreams in her first non-fantasy novel, “The Moon Over High Street.” In this interview, Babbitt describes her perspective on writing for young people.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel "The Great Gatsby" James “Jimmy” Gatz becomes Jay Gatsby. Gatsby creates a false identity for himself to enter the world of wealth and power that his beloved, Daisy Buchanan, lives in. The novel explores this world of excess and what it takes for Gatsby to truly enter it. This premise of false identity has moved from fiction to reality. Listen to learn about a real life Gatsby who called himself “Clark Rockefeller.”
From "Shiloh" to "Lassie" and "Old Yeller," young adult literature is full of stories about friendship between people and dogs. People love animals but what do animals feel? There is a debate in the scientific community and in popular culture about what emotions animals are capable of and how they display these emotions. Does recognizing that animals can feel take away from human emotion? Or does it help us recognize where these traits came from? This story discusses recent research on the emotions of animals. Listen to learn more about what researchers discovered, and the controversy surrounding the emotional lives of animals.
Playwright Arthur Miller wrote plays that spoke to the common man. From his commentary on the American dream in "Death of a Salesman" to McCarthyism in "The Crucible," Miller wrote hard-hitting personal dramas that also resonated with a wide spectrum of American people, especially the working class. Listen to learn more about Miller’s roots, his writing process, and how his personal background—particularly his house and writing space—compare to backgrounds shared by his characters.
Current Event February 10, 2015
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee has long been considered a classic in American Literature. Its look at race and injustice in the South through the eyes of a young girl known as Scout endures to this day, more than fifty years after its release. Fans of the novel received an amazing surprise last week when it was announced that Harper Lee will be publishing another book. “Go Set A Watchman” features the same world and characters of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Listen to learn the fascinating story behind the new novel and how it inspired the original.
Current Event December 31, 2014
Conflict and violence in Syria have displaced women and children to surrounding nations. Refugees living in Beirut, Lebanon have found voice and kinship through the ancient tragedy Antigone. Sophocles wrote Antigone in 441 BCE. The play is about a Princess dealing with the loss of war and daring to challenge the powerful. 250 years later some Syrian women see themselves in Antigone and have adapted the play to reflect their experiences.
Current Event November 29, 2014
When Jack Kerouac’s novel 'On the Road' was published in 1957 it shocked a generation of readers. The novel followed Kerouac’s travels and counterculture lifestyle. But it was the stream of consciousness style that set the literary world on its head and made it the anchor text for the Beat Generation. Kerouac didn’t always write this way; in fact his first novel didn’t have any spontaneous prose. What inspired Kerouac’s dramatic departure to stream of consciousness? Listen to learn more about his inspiration and the “holy grail of the Beat Generation.”
Current Event November 27, 2014
It is hard for books to compete with the instant communication of Twitter or Facebook and the endless content on websites likes Buzzfeed. Book loving young people are now using these websites to create content honoring or inspired by books. Listen to learn more about these adaptations and their potential impact on literacy.
Current Event November 19, 2014
For many, Henry David Thoreau is best know for his 1854 experiment in simplicity, living in the woods of Massachusetts on Walden Pond. The resulting book 'Walden, or Life in the Woods,' has connected generations of readers to Thoreau's vision of self-reliance, closeness to nature, and transcendentalism. An art museum located near Walden Pond has launched a show, Walden Revisited, with works inspired by and responding to Thoreau’s work.
Current Event August 25, 2014
In 1993, the book The Giver made a splash in the world of young literature, 20 years later it has made it to the big screen. Author Lois Lowry discusses her inspirations for a world in which there are no memories or emotions but there are clear rules and regulations. We also hear from the movie’s screenwriter, who himself read the book as a fifth grader. Listen to this public radio story to learn more about what inspired the book and led to the film.
This public radio story describes the life and misfortunes of Niccolo Machiavelli, a citizen of Florence who led the fight against its takeover by the Medici family, and was banished from his beloved city. His single work of nonfiction, the manual "The Prince", was published five years after his death, in 1532, and has guaranteed that this civil servant erased by the Medicis would live forever, famous—or infamous—for the advice he gives to rulers in his work. Was Machiavelli really recommending ruthless practicality for rulers? Or is his philosophy more subtle and moral than people think?
Current Event July 21, 2014
Nadine Gordimer was a white South African who was also an observer of the everyday experience of 'Blacks under Apartheid'. She wrote 15 novels including 'Lying Days,' 'A World of Strangers,' 'A Sport of Nature,' and 'The Conservationist.' She won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1991 and died in 2014 at the age of 90. Listen to learn more about this influential writer.
Current Event June 8, 2014
William Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing” has been adapted for the stage and screen across history and across the globe. The plot of the play, written in 1598 and 1599, resonates across time and with many audiences. The most recent film adaptation by Josh Whedon in 2013 delighted critics and viewers alike. Listen to hear from Whedon himself why he loved “Much Ado About Nothing” and the impact he thinks the play has had on modern storytelling.
Current Event June 3, 2014
The movie Gone With The Wind was released in 1939. This story of love and survival in the Civil War resonated with audiences and critics alike. It won 10 Academy Awards and when adjusted for inflation it remains the highest grossing movie ever. The story’s path from print to screen was not a quick or easy one. Listen to learn more about the film’s production and how a movie about the Civil War won the hearts and minds of people in 1939 and to this today.
Current Event May 3, 2014
George Lucas’s Star Wars films are an empire unto themselves. With two movie trilogies and another on the way, the films are prolific, as are the universe they build. This is matched and raised by hundreds of Star Wars books that mirror and expand the narrative of the movies. Some hardcore fans even prefer the books, which cover 25,000 years and include 17,000 characters. Listen to learn more about the unprecedented success of this movie based book franchise.
Current Event May 2, 2014
Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With The Wind was an instant success when it was published in 1936. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was a national bestseller. Mitchell was inspired by her family’s history as Southern planters and their stories of the past. The novel’s themes of love and survival resonated with some, but her portrayal of slavery and the Civil War, through the eyes of a slaveholding woman, remains controversial. Listen to learn how the Georgia county that served as inspiration for the book is dealing with this legacy today.
Current Event May 1, 2014
The 1972 film The Godfather introduced the world to the Italian Mafia. This story of family, honor and betrayal was based on a best-selling novel by the same name. The movie, which won three Oscars and had two sequels, has withstood the test of time and ranks as one of the greatest American films ever made. Listen to hear why the movie resonates with the viewer well beyond the first time watching it.